Not Wildman: NCSoft’s MMO Wildstar Out This Year

By Alec Meer on February 6th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

NCSoft’s next big MMO, Wildstar, has been quiet for the best part of the year, and this is of course because it’s been on a fantastic voyage to the bottom of the sea, tutoring giant squid, blue whales and starfish in the ways of levelling up and crafting. Either that or they wanted to develop a load more of the game before showing it off again. I went to see and play Carbine Studios’ sci-fi/fantasy mash-up, which aims to be a deconstruction and then new reconstruction of MMORPG tropes, last week, and I’ll have a full report on that for you late next week.

In the meantime, today they’re telling the world about one of their two opposing, tri-race factions, and pledging to get the game out in 2013.

The second, dastardly faction the Dominion I’ll tell you about soon, but in the meantime here’s a rather cheery scene-setting video explaining who good guys The Exiles are and what they’re up to on Wildstar’s worn-torn planet, named Nexus:

More than a little Firefly in there, and I am totes OK with that.

As you may already know, something Wildstar is doing in addition to mroe traditional classes and levelling is the concept of Paths, additional playstyles designed to reflect your own preferred habits within a virtual world. Soldier and Explorer are the first two of these to be shown/explained in detail (more on Explorer specifically from me next week), so here’s Carbine on them:

And, yeah, we have a ’2013′ release date – which is a little sooner than I’d expected (given how long Guild Wars 2 gestated for) and I guess it means Wildstar is abstractly going head to head with Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online. And they say the age of mega-budget MMOs is over, eh?

For more on Wildstar, have a read of Carbine boss Jeremy Gaffney’s extensive ‘state of the game’ latter over here.

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34 Comments »

  1. Veritaas says:

    Man, a lot of what they’re saying sounds great, but they’re still missing on tons of the standard tropes of MMOs. I see hotbar combat, fields of enemies standing still and/or patrolling a few feet, and it all just looks really clunky.

    I know RPS hates it when people give opinions on games that aren’t out yet, but this is looking like it’s going to be another hit-and-miss MMO.

    • Brun says:

      hotbar combat

      There’s that term again – someone always brings it up when they see an MMO. Combat in *any* game is going to involve pushing buttons because you’re using either a mouse, keyboard, or gamepad to interact with your computer and all three have buttons that will be hotkeyed to actions within the game. The fact that the buttons and their actions are displayed graphically on the screen (the “hotbar”) doesn’t change the basic functionality. That is the nature of human-computer interface in the year 2013, and there is nothing wrong with it.

      • Veritaas says:

        “Hotbar combat” is just synonymous with shitty MMO combat. There’s technically nothing wrong with “hotbars”.

        Let me rephrase. This game looks like it has “shitty MMO combat”.

        • Wreckdum says:

          Go youtube Wildstar combat videos. I think it looks closer to Tera online combat. Guild Wars 2 said they were changing the game with the active dodge ability… Now it’s just WoW combat where you can dodge twice every few seconds.

          I think Wildstar looks ahead of GW2 but still not as arcade as Tera Online. Hopefully they find a nice middle ground because I think Tera’s button mashing gets more boring than traditional MMO combat after the gimmick has worn off.

          Also based on Wildstar combat vids I’ve seen I think they did a way better job with mobility and the use of directional attacks in combat than GW2. GW2 PvP is more of an AOE clusterfuck and I think Wildstar has a lot more method to the madness so it will actually take a brain to play.

      • Josh W says:

        I think it makes sense actually, in that when you consider the gameplay loop, it basically revolves around watching your bar of skill icons like a mouse is going to jump from under them, and getting the correct timing to maximise effectiveness.

        Of course there’s more to it than that in many games, target choice, strategic decisions about what to focus on etc, but most of the timing element is you focusing on your own hotkeys.

        It’s like if there was a quick time event mmo, you’d still be hitting buttons in reaction to things on the screen, but the gameplay loop would be focused on looking for explicit button prompts, whatever else you were actually doing. It reduces down.

    • Shooop says:

      Interest already gone then.

      When is someone going to do something even remotely entertaining with MMO RPG combat?

  2. Rollin says:

    Just what the world needs, another MMO!

  3. misterT0AST says:

    I’d like every person who posts here to end their comment with the word MMO.

  4. Kitsuninc says:

    I almost got NCSoft mixed up with Nexon, glad I checked before going yuck and feeling dumb.

    Can’t say I will make any judgement before the game releases, I haven’t even seen any real information about how the combat and movement feels, which is pretty much a make or break for MMOs.

    • aliksy says:

      I believe Nexon owns a large chunk of NCSoft. Wiki says “In 2012 Nexon acquired a 14.7 percent interest in NCSoft for $688 million”

    • Wreckdum says:

      The real difference you have to remember is.

      Guild Wars 2 = Arenanet/NCSoft

      Vindictus = Nexon

      Anyone who has played both will immediately understand the difference. lol

  5. bikkebakke says:

    The girl in the “meet the exiles” video sounds extremely a lot like Foxy from Drawn Together

  6. InternetBatman says:

    It looks good for an MMO, but about 10 years too late.

  7. derella says:

    I think it looks fun. MMO.

  8. TheMick says:

    This really makes me miss tabula rasa. edit: MMO

    • RonnieBoy says:

      Same here…

      I’m half expecting them to shut down Aion, as that seems to be the way they do things at NCSoft. As IIRC they shut down Auto Assault and used the servers for Tabula Rasa, shut down Tabula Rasa and used those servers for Aion.

      • skittles says:

        Defiance is actually playing and feeling verrrrrry similar. So it may scratch your TR itch. shhhhhhh… you didn’t hear it from me.

  9. aliksy says:

    For me to consider playing an MMO it needs to
    - Have autogrouping like GW2. Don’t make seeing other players a bad thing, MMO developers. Make playing with other people effortless and beneficial.
    - Not have tedious “kill x of y” creatures, unless they’re optional and I miss nothing by skipping them. (GW2 heart quests almost get this right)
    - Not have a horrible disconnect between the animations and the combat. Don’t have bullets make 270 degree turns to hit because “to hit” was calculated before I moved. Let me dodge.
    - Have more involved combat. It should play like an actual game that would be fun on its own. Look at Dark Souls for inspiration if you have to. You can attack, parry, dodge all on your own. Win or lose by your smarts instead of passively watching the same animations over and over and over and over.
    - Have good pacing. If I’m itching for a frameskip/fast forward button you’ve done something wrong.

    For extra credit, do something new with gear instead of a treadmill of slowly increasing numbers.

    • Kitsuninc says:

      Yes.

      I think that a great MMO would be based around the idea of taking a familiar gameplay system and tweaking it to work with a Massively Multiplayer Online world. I think it’s silly that game devs make MMOs thinking “Well, we’re going to do things like every other goddamn MMO, but make X Y and Z different, and maybe improve A B and C” rather than just trying to, say, take a beat-em-up and make it work in a persistent world with thousands of other players. I’m sure it’s harder than it sounds, but it doesn’t seem like anyone has even tried. Basically, why are levels, stats, quests, and hotbars so freaking essential to making a massive world?

      Edit: I just realized Planetside is kind of exactly what I was saying. Huh. Still, there isn’t anything else like that, is there?

      • Brun says:

        levels, stats, quests, and hotbars

        I think what you’re really asking is “why are the overwhelming majority of MMOs RPGs?” Levels, stats, and quests are essential to RPGs, not necessarily to online worlds. I know there is debate on this subject but those three items are typically considered important to calling a game an “RPG.”

        Semantics aside, it *has* been tried and executed successfully, and recently too – I’m talking about PlanetSide 2, which is basically what you get when a developer says “Hey, let’s take an FPS and make it work in an online world.”

        That said, there is a reason that the RPG has worked so well in MMO format, and that reason has to do with progression and maintaining playerbase interest. The mechanics of RPGs afford progression goals to your game inherently, which is why you’ve seen them crop up in other multiplayer formats (such as FPS).

        • Kitsuninc says:

          I’m more wondering why every MMO is just iterating upon the same systems already created by previous MMOs. Rather than “Oh we’re going to do this with our game” it’s “Well we’re going to make our game different from others by changing this.” For instance, they all seem to be based around very simple movement which just goes start & stop in all directions, with jumps that simply take you up an axis. They all use simple hotkey based combat, where you have about ten swap-aroundable skills, which either target a character or an area, and have a very large emphasis on buffs and debuffs, rather than doing something like, I dunno, Dark Souls or Skyrim. Isn’t TES Online going to go third person just to be an MMO. Why?

          Still, if you’re making an RPG, and it does take a lot of creativity to do anything else in an MMO, I guess I can understand why you’d just stick to what has been done before.

          • Brun says:

            they all seem to be based around very simple movement which just goes start & stop in all directions, with jumps that simply take you up an axis

            That’s much more a limitation of the keyboard than anything. Your movement inputs are digital, so you’re either moving in one direction or not moving in that direction. You can change that up to a limited extent by adding combination keys (like holding Shift to sprint), but ultimately movement in any game not using a gamepad (and on a PC you have to assume KBM as your basic input device) is going to be shallow.

            I dunno, Dark Souls, where you just fight mostly with your weapon, rather than having ‘Skills’ you must fight with.

            You have 5-7 different attacks with your weapon in Dark Souls, basically the same thing as having “skills.” The only thing really novel about Dark Souls’ combat was how conservatively you had to play due to the unforgiving nature of the enemies. This had much more to do with how the enemies were tuned than with the mechanics – the only mechanic that changed up the combat noticeably was “staggering” (i.e. taking a hit would stun you briefly), and that basically just put a greater emphasis on not getting hit at all. I keep hearing a lot about how awesome Dark Souls’ combat mechanics are, when they really aren’t that special and wouldn’t work well when applied to something like an MMO – one of my biggest problems with the combat in that game is that the mechanics of bows and magic mean that sword-and-board melee fighters are *heavily* favored. The awesome and unique thing about Dark Souls was its difficulty which was such that the typical playstyle was changed even with rather average combat systems.

            Another reason for using similar combat systems is that you’re trying to appeal to a large audience. This isn’t just a profit-driven design decision, having an adequately sized playerbase is vital to the health of an MMO. So your combat system has to be understandable, and “hotbar combat” is something that’s relatively easy to pick up right out of the gate.

            Isn’t TES Online going to go third person just to be an MMO.

            Yes, but I think that’s because, honestly, the first-person melee combat in Skyrim was *terribly* uninteresting, with most fights devolving into spamming your main attack.

          • aliksy says:

            I think saying Dark Souls “you only have 5-7 attacks is basically the same as skills” is really over simplifying it. It did a good job of using stamina for offense and defense. It had weapons that you pick more for their moveset than “it has bigger numbers”, which is cool. Parry-riposte was also really satisfying. Overall works really well (other than lock-on combat kind of sucking), simple or not.

            I think Most MMO combat skills are more show than substance. it doesn’t matter if you do a big overhead swing or a backflip or whatever. That’s just cosmetic. A lot of dark souls attacks move you, and that matters. People that get hit by your sword on screen actually get hit by the sword. That’s nice, and most hotbar MMO combat doesn’t do that.

            I would rather MMOs have 5-7 “skills” that work well and are distinct than a dozen garbage skills. GW2 compared to SWTOR, I guess.

            But why wouldn’t Dark Souls’ combat work in an MMO setting?

            Also, I don’t know what game you’re playing, but magic is /dramatically/ easier than melee in most PvE parts. Spells per day means using a weapon on some trash, but that’s a separate issue.

            Agreement on the enemy tuning being important. A lot of MMO combat is just kind of… trivial. Run up to things, hit rotation, repeat. Some JRPGs suffer from this problem too. Like I said, if the game makes me wish for frameskip/fastforward, something is failing.

            But Dark Souls isn’t the only other game. It’s just the most recent RPG I’ve played. Magicka had really interesting mechanics. No hotbars or garbage skills. No ‘cooldowns”. No level grinding or slowly unlocking skills. Things that look damaging actually are damaging.

            Skyrim’s melee combat was kind of dull. No locational damage, hit point bloat, not a lot of movement.

            And thus ends my long, disjointed reply.

          • Shooop says:

            It’s a mystery.

            We even have FPS games using RPG elements and becoming smash hits but no one thinks to make a MMO RPG with gameplay more interesting than “stand here and press these 2-3 buttons until enemy dies”.

            I really, really hope this is a colossal failure and it helps kill the genre for a good decade so it can sit in the corner and think about what it can do to be fun to play along with being beautiful to look at and explore.

  10. Prime says:

    Do we have some kind of success map for these things by now? Surely recent years have been littered with the wrecks of MMOs That Failed enough to stop churning them out at a rate of one per week?

    • Shuck says:

      It may be that a decline in the cost of client/server technology (which caused the failure of a lot of earlier MMOs) could make MMO development economically more feasible. If they keep costs down to what would be spent on a AAA game (which these days have risen to meet what MMOs used to cost), then the added revenue streams from an MMO (subscription or real money transactions) make it more attractive than just making another AAA game (which could be pirated, etc). Game sales alone don’t usually pay for AAA games, so if you can turn the game into a service, you’re ahead, financially speaking. So long as you don’t spend much more on development than you would on your single-player game, it’s less of a risk.

  11. CaspianRoach says:

    The guys who do this certainly can do an awesome trailer/animation clip. Too bad their talent is stuck working on a MMO.

  12. Arglebargle says:

    Don’t want to wish ill of Carbine, especially if the game is even halfway decent, but NCSoft will never get another dollar from me. The Board of Directors should be publicly spanked, and then sent off to clean out pig stys. — disgruntled ex player of sadly deceased MMO.

  13. Shooop says:

    Because what the world needs is still another crappy “watch the hotbar” MMO RPG! Hooray!

  14. f1x says:

    I will give this one a try, looks fairly good to be honest

    the exploration path sounds like it could be nice aswell :)

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